Dr. Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University has a must-read book for parents called ‘iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us’. In this book he discusses changes that occur to the brain ́s ability to process information and the ability to relate to the world due to daily consumption of media and use of technology. This obsession with technology can result in signs and symptoms of psychological disorders (which Dr. Rosen has labeled iDisorders) such as stress, sleeplessness, narcissism and a compulsive need to check-in with our technology.
However, it is important to note the word ‘obsession’. Dr. Rosen is not anti-technology, far from it. Instead, he argues that we need to become more aware of issues that can arise from over-use of technology and then implement strategies to deal with these. Self-awareness and a move towards restorative balance are essential.
Some of the ideas Dr. Rosen discusses are:
– Ensure your child gets a full night’s sleep and that mobile phones are switched off during the night and ideally in a different room. If a student wakes in the night and checks their phone, however briefly, this will interrupt the sleep patterns for that night and disrupt essential memory processing.
– Convene regular family dinners (3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes) where technology is forbidden at the table – parents included! Dr. Rosen points to the fact that many parents are also obsessed with technology and are modeling these behaviours to their children, for example not paying full attention when their child is talking to them, instead answering email on their smart phone at the same time. Rosen believes we are massive self-interrupters and we are training our children that if something buzzes, beeps or vibrates, we should jump and immediately check to see if there is something we should attend to right now.
– Given the pervasiveness of technology in our lives as well as the fact that technology evokes high levels of mental activity, we need to start taking technology ‘time-outs’ to reset our brains and refresh our capacity to process information. It is important to recognise that the constant lure of multiple technologies and our obsession with them is overloading our brain. If we want to avoid iDisorder and ensure our use of technology does not make us exhibit signs and symptoms of psychological disorders, then we need to reset our brain on a regular basis. You may decide to take a 10 minute break from technology every 2 hours or you may even decide to allocate at least one day a week where you focus your attention 100% on real life and shut off your technology for a significant portion of that day. During this time you could laugh or talk with friends or family, experience nature or do something active. The aim is to give the brain a chance to slow down and rest by doing something that does not involve electronic devices.
We live in a connected world and we can’t turn the clock back and take away all these fun new technological tools. So the message is, we need to learn to take care of our brains and take some small proactive steps to avoid a potential iDisorder.